Exams and the Academic Honor Code

At Bowdoin, we operate with an Academic Honor Code and Social Code that students overwhelmingly respect and adhere to. A number of students cite its existence as an important consideration in their decision to attend the College.

Nevertheless, instances of cheating do occur. Over the years, faculty members and members of the Judicial Board, which adjudicates cases of academic dishonesty, have suggested that faculty employ proactive best practices, which can support our students in making good choices and lessen the likelihood of cheating.

  • Spread students throughout the room as broadly as possible. [In some Judicial Board cases, unnecessary proximity made it easy for one student to copy the work of another.]

  • Require that students stow books, notes, phones, and other electronic devices out of sight. [Some faculty provide a container in which students deposit these items as they enter the room or simply ask students to leave these items in front of the classroom.]

  • If you use "blue books," distribute your own at the outset of the exam.

  • Remind your students of Bowdoin's Academic Honor Code either verbally or by soliciting a signature on a statement on the exam confirming adherence to the Code. [Some faculty include language along the lines of the following on their exam, "By signing this examination, I acknowledge my responsibility and commitment to the Academic Honor Code."]

  • Remain present during your exam to assist students in maintaining academic integrity and to confront any concerns should they arise. [Students routinely express gratitude for instructors who rigorously proctor their exams, as this allows them to focus on their exam and not the behavior of their peers.]

  • Remind students to use the bathroom before they are given their exam. Consider disallowing students from leaving the exam room during your exam. If this seems unreasonable, check the bathrooms and adjacent spaces for notebooks and other materials that might aid a student. [Students have used bathroom breaks to consult notes, textbooks, phones, etc.]

  • Do not permit the use of programmable calculators or, if necessary, consider providing calculators. [Formulas and text have been found programmed onto calculators.]

  • Do not permit students to use laptops or other devices that could access a wireless internet signal. [Students have used computers and phones to access information on the internet during an exam.]

  • If scrap paper will be allowed, provide it yourself to students. Collect and keep the scrap paper after asking students to place their names on their scrap paper. [Providing scrap paper reduces the likelihood that students will bring something into the exam they shouldn't, and scrap paper can serve as important information in Judicial Board cases and possibly in one's decision to bring a situation to the Judicial Board. Some faculty have regretted not providing their own scrap paper or collecting it.]

  • Design take-home exams that recognize, circumvent, and minimize opportunities for improper student-student collaboration and outright cheating. [Take-home exams create a tempting medium for students to cheat and a significant number of cases have appeared before the Judicial Board in recent years that centered on take-home exams.]

  • If you use plagiarism-detection tools, inform your students - both on your syllabus and in class - that you will do so and how such tools work.

  • If you allow collaborative work at certain times and forbid it at other times in your course, endeavor to help your students understand when collaboration is appropriate and also the difference between collaboration and collusion.